- Film and television actor
- Supporter of Democratic candidates and causes
Film and television actor George Clooney has been a leading man on the primetime TV program E.R. and in numerous Hollywood blockbuster films. In recent years, he has used his celebrity status as a platform from which to publicly promote his leftwing political views. “I'm an old-time liberal,” Clooney says, “and I don't apologize for it.”
Clooney was born in 1961 in Lexington, Kentucky. His mother, Nina Bruce, was a former beauty-pageant queen; his father, Nick Clooney, was a broadcast journalist, a fill-in host for American Bandstand, and the full-time host of the game show The Money Maze. It was on the set of his father’s television studio that Clooney first became interested in show business. He was also influenced by his aunt, the famous singer Rosemary Clooney.
George Clooney attended Northern Kentucky University and the University of Cincinnati but did not complete a degree at either school. He began acting in the mid-1980s in bit parts on such television sitcoms as The Facts of Life and Roseanne. It was his role on the popular NBC drama ER in 1994, however, that solidified his status as a Hollywood heavyweight. Since then, Clooney has had major roles in such films as O Brother, Where Art Thou?, The Perfect Storm, Batman and Robin, The Peacemaker, Ocean's 11, and Leatherheads.
Along with his rise of celebrity, so too has Clooney’s stature grown as a liberal activist. A harsh critic of Republican Presidents, Clooney said:
"What did [President George W.] Bush do on 9/11? He ran away and hid. Even Reagan knew more about leadership than that, and he was as bad a symbol of America as I can think of, off-hand. But at least he's been in enough cowboy movies to know he had to come out and stand on top of the rubble and be seen shaking his fist or something."
Prior to the 2003 U.S. invasion of Iraq, Clooney said, "Are we going to try and talk [to Saddam Hussein] without jumping in and killing people first? I don't believe we're going to wait until the last resort to do it. That's what bothers me."
During the same time period, Clooney stated on Charlie Rose's PBS program that pursuing war with Iraq, while not doing so with North Korea (vis a vis its illegally developed nuclear weapons program), illustrates how "we're picking on people we can beat." "First and foremost," he elaborated, "is the idea that we're going to kill a lot of innocent people, that's what we're going to do. That's what we did before [in Iraq] and it's what we're going to do again. And, the truth is, we're going to go in and negotiate with North Korea because they have a bomb, because we don't want to get involved in a fight that could result in a real problem." "We moved away," he added, "from what we were going after [in the wake of 9/11], which was the al-Qaeda, and there's no connection between al-Qaeda and Iraq."
Disparaging President Bush's 2002 "axis of evil" reference to Iran, Iraq, and North Korea, Clooney said, "Listen to the language! 'Evil.' 'Evil'? 'Nexus of evil'? 'Evil-doer'? That's my favorite, 'evil-doer'! What's wrong with their vocabulary: couldn't they come up with 'schmuck'?"
In March 2006, Clooney expressed his anger at Democrats for not taking a tougher stance against the Iraq War:
"The fear of [being] criticized can be paralyzing. Just look at the way so many Democrats caved in the run up to the war. In 2003, a lot of us were saying, where is the link between Saddam and bin Laden? What does Iraq have to do with 9/11? We knew it was bullshit. Which is why it drives me crazy to hear all these Democrats saying, ‘We were misled.’ It makes me want to shout, ‘F*** you, you weren't misled. You were afraid of being called unpatriotic.’"
In Clooney's view, war as a means of solving international disputes has become anachronistic. “You can't beat your enemy anymore through wars,” he says; “instead you create an entire generation of people revenge-seeking.”
Clooney advocates the deployment of a “multi-national” peace-keeping force to end the tribal wars in the Darfur region of western Sudan. Along with fellow actors Brad Pitt, Matt Damon and Don Cheadle, Clooney is one of the organizers of Not on Our Watch (NOW), a humanitarian group that seeks to focus global attention on Darfur.
Clooney is a proponent of limiting the rights of gun owners. In 2003 he courted controversy when he made a mean-spirited joke aimed at the National Rifle Association's then-president, Charlton Heston, who was afflicted with Alzheimer's disease. At a National Board of Review event, Clooney quipped, “The head of the NRA announced again today that he is suffering from Alzheimer's disease.” When asked later if he regretted having made that remark, Clooney responded, "I don't care. Charlton Heston is the head of the National Rifle Association; he deserves whatever anyone says about him.”
Clooney is also an environmental activist. In 2006 he appeared -- along with Robert F. Kennedy, Julia Roberts, and Al Gore -- on the cover of Vanity Fair magazine’s “Special Green Issue,” beneath the headline: “A Threat Greater than Terrorism: Global Warming.”
A number of the films on which Clooney has chosen to work have reflected his political positions. In 2005, for instance, he directed and starred in Good Night, and Good Luck, about leftwing journalist Edward R. Murrow’s attempt to bring down Senator Joseph McCarthy during the Communist scare of the early 1950s. That same year, Clooney starred in Syriana, a politically charged and heavy-handed look at the U.S. oil industry.
While he has contributed money to a number of political campaigns, Clooney generally prefers not to publicly endorse any specific candidates -- because, he says, celebrity endorsements can have a negative impact on campaigns. Thus in 2004 he declined a request asking him to campaign alongside presidential candidate John Kerry. Likewise, he turned down a request by his own father to campaign for the elder Clooney's 2004 congressional run in Kentucky, though he did contribute money to the father's efforts.
From 1989 to 2008, Clooney made $21,900 in political contributions, all of which went to Democratic candidates. Among the more notable beneficiaries were Al Franken, Barbara Boxer, John Kerry, and Barack Obama.
During the 2008 presidential election season, Clooney broke tradition and decided to publicly voice his support for presidential candidate Barack Obama, stating, “I'd love him to be president, quite honestly.” During the campaign season, Clooney was in almost-daily contact -- via text messaging, emails, and phone calls -- with Obama, even offering the candidate advice on foreign policy. Clooney also took part in an overseas fundraising event for Obama.
In January 2008 Clooney was appointed as a United Nations “Messenger of Peace.”
Notwithstanding his forays into political discourse, Clooney has declared that he will never run for public office, explaining that he has “slept with too many women, done too many drugs and been to too many parties.”